Once again, the subject of my daddy must be preserved and celebrated in print. He turned eighty-six this October and I marvel at the width and depth of his photographic memory. While I can’t remember where I last set my cellphone or that I left an egg frying in hot grease on the stove, he can recall and recite the lineage of anyone and everyone who has an ancestral root or toehold in LaSalle Parish. My short-term memory can be puttering around looking for direction while his long-term is still strutting its stuff in fine form.
As many of you realize, I write feature columns for The Jena Times, so therefore, I am always on the lookout for interesting people and stories. Daddy has given me a multitude of suggestions and topics, some of which I have pursued. Others, however, reach so far back, the people and information, unfortunately, have long been lost, expect in my daddy’s excellent memory.
For instance, he told me the other day, “Deborah Sue, you ought to write about the bank robbery that happened at the bank in Jena here when Pa Hudspeth was a boy.”
Now let me enlarge here. Pa Hudspeth was my great grandpa and he passed from this life when I was in elementary school. He failed to share with me the bank robbery incident from his younger days and I am now in my young sixties! Daddy threw around a few details of the incident he had gotten from the long-ago stories of Pa Hudspeth but suggested that I research the rest. Hmmmm, I’m not sure the archives go back that far and if they do, I fear I would have a little difficulty locating them. I’ve made a note in the event I one day stumble upon something relating to it. (If I don’t lose the note.)
Another frequent conversation we have goes something like this: “Do you remember old soand-so?” my daddy will ask.
“No, Daddy, that was before my time. I don’t think I was alive and kicking then,” I’ll reply desperately searching my brain for a clue or connection.
He’ll give me a pitiful look and begin to explain who they were and how they are connected to the family or to some of you who read this column. It sometimes takes a few generations in the discussed lineage before I catch on to a familiar name of someone I know or knew. Regardless, Daddy patiently explains, all the time giving me a look of pity and compassion that my memory is so far spent and his is still on steroids.
He also loves to laugh and joke that our family is most often the subject of this column, warning others to watch what they say and do, or their words and deeds might appear in print the next week. (Ha, got you there, Dad!) The fact that he’s accused me of such has often compelled me to do just that, in a most tactful way, of course.
It’s a sure fact that if the Lord lets me live and reach the ripe old age of eighty-six that I will be lucky to have a small percentage of the number of memory cells that Garbo (AKA: dear old dad) possesses. At the rate my knees and other body parts are regressing, I’m quite certain that I will not be able to match his state of physical fitness. Nonetheless, I sure enjoy the conversations, memory making, and times spent rocking in the rocking chair on his new front porch just down from mine. No doubt, in a few years, I’ll be looking at my sons and grandsons, I hope, embodying my daddy’s candor and asking, “Do you remember old so-and-so who used to live down the road from your Papaw Garbo when he was a kid?” I’ll give them a pitiful look as they search their fragile memories for meaning, snickering in a memorial salute to my daddy.